A Moment of Science

Roaches And Junk Food

Even cockroaches get fat. The surprising truth about junk food and health in animals.

Cockroached And Junk Food

Photo: wmjas (flickr)

Scientists are studying the effects of feeding cockroaches diets which are equivalent to the junk food dies of humans.

Cockroaches are famous–or maybe infamous–for being the ultimate survivors.  They can live anywhere, eat anything.

But just like people, roaches on a junk food diet don’t fare well.  According to one study, even cockroaches get fat and unwell when their diet is out of whack.

Special Diets

Now, we’re not talking about junk food as in potato chips and French fries.  Researchers at the University of Exeter, in England, fed one group of young roaches a well‑balanced diet of high‑protein fish food and oatmeal.  A second group dined only on fish food–which in the roach world is the equivalent to a diet consisting mainly of burgers and fries.

Overall, the roaches raised on a poorly balanced diet were fatter and took longer to mature than the insects that enjoyed a more healthful diet.  Even when some junk food‑eating roaches were switched to the more healthful diet midway through the experiment, they still weren’t as healthy as roaches that ate healthful meals from the get-go.

Similarly, another British study found that baby crows that scavenge junk food from city garbage cans are less healthy than crows in rural areas eating more natural, more healthful stuff.

Does It Matter?

So why should we care about the diets of cockroaches and crows?

We already know that too much junk food is bad for our health.  But learning that it’s unhealthy even for animals supposedly able to thrive on just about anything–well, that drives the point home just a little bit more.  If roaches and crows suffer from a poor diet, we’re all the more vulnerable.

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